The Corner


Is It Better to Kneel and Pray During the National Anthem?

We’re heading into another thrilling (yawn) weekend of preseason NFL football, which means we may see more players taking a knee during the national anthem. Earlier this week, we saw a new wrinkle, as twelve members of the Cleveland Browns took a knee and prayed to be traded to a better team for a more peaceful world

“There’s a lot of social and racial injustices going on in the world right now,” said Browns safety Jabrill Peppers, one of the players who knelt. “We were just praying for everyone. Everyone thinks that when you reach a certain level, a certain status in life, certain things you’re unaffected by, but that’s not the truth. We’re all human at the end of the day, and we just have to come together at times like these. It was just us being together, a bunch of teammates praying for the world.”

Standing nearby in solidarity were punter Britton Colquitt, cornerback Jason McCourty, quarterback DeShone Kizer, defensive tackle Trevon Coley and offensive tackle Shon Coleman.

“Obviously, this is a sensitive subject in our country right now,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “Quite frankly — it is kind of sad on my part — I don’t really know the different teams and what they are doing, but I did see an opportunity with my guys to support them on an awesome venture out there when they decided that they are going to pray in a time where this country is kind of all over the place in a sense of human rights and the racial movements. I decided it was a time for me to join my brothers who decide to take a knee and support them while they were praying.”

The gesture of kneeling during the national anthem, started by the still-unsigned free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, always seemed to be a glaring misunderstanding of what it meant to stand during the national anthem. Standing during the national anthem did not signify a belief that the country is perfect or that there is no injustice or wrongdoing in the country. It’s not like everyone else in the stadium who is standing wants to send the message that racial hatred or police brutality are okay. Their decision to stand is probably best interpreted as an assent to the final lines of the song:

Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,

For the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

May our flag keep flying over us, as the land of the free and home of the brave. Should one take a knee and pray during the national anthem? That’s obviously a personal choice; a never-really-enforced U.S. law does not permit kneeling during the anthem:

all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart

The players who kneeled seem to have their hearts in the right place, wanting to demonstrate a call for a more peaceful, conciliatory world through prayer. Peppers mentioned a desire to “come together at times like these”; well-meaning as they may have been, the players demonstrated their desire for unity by doing something different from everyone else around them. 

The irony is that standing for the anthem is a demonstration of unity and a shared expression of unity; no matter our race, creed or color, we hope to remain the land of the free and home of the brave.